Although almost every town of France is charming and picturesque in its own way, one of the best towns, if not the best, is Annecy, which is known as both the “Pearl of the Alps” and the “Venice of the Alps”. Located in the Haute-Savoie region of France, Annecy sits in a unique location with river canals, an alpine lake, and easy access to the foothills of the Alps along with the larger peaks of the range. Annecy is also a historic town, with roots stretching back to the tenth century, the Duchy of Savoy, and a number of items that affected French history, such as the counter-reformation and the French Revolution. With its old town, expansive lakeside park, and associated outdoor activities, Annecy is a town a visitor could spend numerous days in easily; but whether one is spending a day or longer there, these locations in and around Annecy will keep one busy no matter the time of year.
1) Climb Mount Veyrier (and Mount Baron). The French Alps are home to some of the world’s best climbing and mountaineering, including Western Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Blanc. However, one doesn’t need to be an experienced veteran alpinist around Annecy, as there are numerous hikes in the region with fantastic views. The best hike, by far is up Mount Veyrier which is the mountain that dominates the east side of Lake Annecy. While there are numerous routes to the summit, all of them lead to the same fantastic views of the larger peaks of the Alps to the east. Hikers with a bit more experience (or energy) can also proceed on toward a second nearby summit, Mount Baron. Both peaks offer fantastic views of the town, lake, and aforementioned mountains.
2) Walk Along or Relax Alongside Lake Annecy. From the River Thieu, which forms the canals that intersect Old Annecy along the Northwest side of the lake from Jardins de l’Europe to L’Paquier and ending at Parc Charles Bosson are a series of interlinked walking and running paths and public parks that are right alongside Lake Annecy. No matter what time of year is, this area is full of stunning views of Lake Annecy and the surrounding town and countryside. During the spring and summer months, these areas are full of tourists and locals alike, enjoying both the lake and the amazing scenery. While the entirety of this area is worth strolling through, it is also a great spot to find a spot to sit back and relax.
3) Visit the Palais de L’lle in Old Annecy. Annecy is both a modern town, with industrial businesses and the accoutrements of modern life, and a window into the past. Along the River Thieu are tens of canals along which hundreds of historical structures still stand in resplendent glory. Although one can walk along the canals for quite a bit of time, and see the ins-and-outs of old Annecy, the most impressive structure is the Palais de L’lle, which has served numerous purposes over the years, and looks like something out of a fairy tale.
4) Stand on the Pont des Amours. While Annecy has many canals, and even more bridges, its most famous bridge is the Pont des Amours. Legend has it that lovers who kiss on the bridge will remain together forever; so if you are in Annecy with your love, be sure to visit – and kiss at this location. For everyone else, the bridge also has excellent views of the lake and canals.
5) Bicycle around Lake Annecy. With excellent views, and a number of walking, jogging, and biking paths, the entirety of the lake is very accessible. From March through October, a number of locations in Annecy rent bicycles that visitors can use to cycle around part – or all of the lake. The total distance around the lake is some 29 kilometers (18 miles), and the route can be completed in a number of hours, provided one doesn’t stop for a cocktail or lunch at one of the many restaurants dotting the lakefront. Cyclists who want a little bit of a challenge can also bicycle up to the Chateau de Menthon Saint-Bernard, a historic structure that is located on the East side of the lake, and is open for tours during certain days of the year.
6) Visit the Cathedrale de la Visitation. This church stands high on a hill to the southwest of Old Annecy, and is readily visible from much of the lakeshore. Although it appears much older, it was actually constructed in the early twentieth century. For visitors who don’t wish to leave the confines of the town, there are other structures that can be visited as well that also have religious and historic importance.
7) Paddle Lake Annecy. Depending on the weather, or the season, paddleboats and stand-up paddleboards can be rented in Annecy for those wishing to get up close and personal with the cool alpine water of the lake. For those visitors not wanting to get their feet wet, a number of cruises – leave from the docks located near Old Annecy.
This is just a starting place for planning one’s adventure. Annecy is also a short distance from Chamonix, and both towns (like most places in Europe) are connected by rail and highways. Have you been to Annecy? Do you have any suggestions that you would add to this list?